Saturday, 1 August 2015

Yow - that's a big chopper

The Safari was out on Patch 2 for the penultimate National Whale and Dolphin Watch. The wind had picked up and swung round coming onshore chopping the sea up again - it's been a nightmare this week apparently one of the windiest NWDW weeks of all. But we were hopeful that the Bottlenosed Dolphins seen not far up the coast yesterday might just come by.
It wasn't the best of days, the rain started after about half an hour just as it was starting to get busy and people wandering past came down for a chat, the rain put a stop to that for about an hour. There was nothing out at sea either it was pretty much devoid of life.
The rain stopped and the people reappeared. It was like the United Nations behind us, every next group of sightseers was speaking a different language to the last. Lunchtime came and we dipped into our taste and texture sensation salt n vinegar Smith's Chipstricks,. On the bench to our left a large Asian family arrived and set up the biggest picnic we've ever seen,  it seemed to be spread over half an acre! No idea what they were having but there were pots and tubs of all manner of homemade goodies, the aromas wafting our way were heady and mouth-wateringly exotic.
They enjoyed their meal packed it all away and moved off up town to be replaced by a Hells Angelly looking lad on a homemade chopper...not powered by a 1500cc Harley engine but by pedal power. He sat on the bench and folk came by and chatted to him then us. After a while the reason he was there became obvious as,other folk turned up but on 'traditional' 1970's Chopper and Chipper bikes and other similar machines - a convention/rally was on and we were at the meeting point.
Some of the machines were very unusual, only by the fact we've never seen owt like them before, they had front AND rear wheel steering. The looked just the job for a quick trip to A & E.
We continued to look for anything out to sea without success. Until a few gulls happened upon a small fish shoal, from nowhere a juvenile Gannet appeared then a couple of adult Kittiwakes but the action was never what you might describe as hectic and the Gannet soon moved away. And that was the end of the session's action.
By the time we'd finished we hadn't even seen a Grey Seal - must be one of the few occasions we've stood there that long and not come across a Grey Seal, certainly not at this time of year. The only blubber we saw in the water were a mid-aged couple having a swim - coo bet that was chilly!
Where to next? Better luck from Chat Alley we hope.
In the meantime let us know who's chopping what in your outback.

Friday, 31 July 2015

National Whale and Pipe Watching Week Day 7

The Safari was out with Frank the other night and spotted there was a bit of moon out.
At work colleague big JG has been terribly worried cos he's not seen the Rabbits under the front hedge for yonks, he's afraid the Fox or local cats have had them all. We've not seen them for a while but this morning one was out on the nearer lawn when we drove up first thing.
A look at the sea wasn't productive despite the light offshore wind and overcast sky making conditions much more conducive to spotting blubber.
In the office we learned that a Common Seal pup had been found on the beach at the end of the Prom. Not often they are seen off our shores and when they are they are invariably pups in some sort of trouble often not long weaned and become dehydrated due to not being able to feed in rough sea conditions. 

There was some movement that caught the corner of our eye on the lawn outside the office window, a male Pied Wagtail collecting plenty of insects for a brood of youngsters somewhere.
Taken through the dirty double glazed windows so not the clearest of pics

At lunchtime we had our regular National Whale and Dolphin Watch, just an hour during the week, and had a great group of volunteers from the Cumbria Wildlife Trust to show the ropes too. But there was a huge piece of pipe on a truck right in front of our usual watching point so we had to move down a hundred yards or so. 
The pipe on the truck was a tiny piece of a rather larger one being towed into position by barges on the other side of the wall.
Large! It was huge, about 1000m long, so big it was never going to fit in one frame on the camera.

It was towed in this morning by the tugs from Holyhead in Anglesey after being towed all the way from Norway where it was manufactured.
The action here didn't stop us from hunting down blubber and towards the end of the watch one of the girls found a Grey Seal
The hour was up and we had to go back inside. But the excitement was too much so we nipped out for another look after munching our butties. 
We'd missed the main event of them turning the pipe through 90 degrees and floating it down the channel that had been dug for it...dohhh.
Wonder what it'll look like tomorrow.
We did spot a little wildlife in the form of a few Oystercatchers flying over the pipe as it was being winched/pushed/dragged.inched into position.
Where to next? A longer full four hour National Whale and Dolphin Watch tomorrow from Patch 2, will there be any blubber, if so will it be the tentatively identified Orcas from west Wales - we wish!!! Will it be the Beluga seen off Northern Island yesterday - how bonkers is that only lordy knows how many thousands of miles south of where it should be - what;s going on?
In the meantime let us know who's burying what in your outback.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Swallow that

The Safari is in a tiz about Lions, or more specifically the pre-planned psychopathic murder of one particular Lion, no doubt his young offspring will be killed by another male so not just one Lion killed by a numpty American who's ego and wallet are sadly rather larger than his number of brain cells but a whole dynastic gene pool - in a species that's beginning to really struggle - marvelous. We've read somewhere that although their numbers are larger than those of tigers they're actually more endangered because of their social structure, not sure how true that is but it sounds plausable. It's about time the whole sordid business of canned trophy hunting was brought into the spotlight...who in their right mind would want to kill a Giraffe but they do, absolutely sickening.
There has been a huge worldwide response on the social media and no doubt many of those battering the keyboards in indignation (and rightly so) will have been from this country where another iconic and majestic predator is being illegally hunted to extinction (in England), albeit a less well known one than Lions, by similar folk with egos and wallets larger than their combined number of brain cells. Still a little short of the 10,000 required to get a fobbing off response from government...come on folks get your digital pens out and sign up before they're all gone. FIVE males mysteriously disappeared in the hills to our east this spring resulting in the deaths of any eggs/chicks their females might have been sitting on. OK so it could have been the poor weather as we believe no chicks fledged on the Isle of Skye this year but we'd hazard a guess none of the males went missing either they just couldn't find enough food. Conversely the Isle of Arran had at least 70 fledglings. Sign your lives away please or you'll be very lucky to have the opportunity to witness the wonderful and spectacular sight of a Hen Harrier quartering the coastal marshes or moorlands near you. The people doing this illegal killing believe they're above the law and will continue to do so until enough of us tell them it's totally unacceptable and we've had enough of losing our Hen Harriers and paying extra in our water and insurance bills (what happened to the polluter pays principle?), not to mention all the other wildlife carnage that goes on in the scorched earth policy of driven grouse shooting...seen any Peregrines in the uplands recently, when's the small population of Golden Eagles going to establish itself in England? Oh it can't - they aren't 'tolerated'!
Rant over, your safe to come out now.
This morning we had a quick but productive look at Patch 2. There were Sandwich and Common Terns, both adults and juveniles of both species, fishing very successfully not far out in front of us, looked like small Sprats or Smelt rather than Sand Eels they were catching. Much further out yesterday's shoals of fish still gave their location away by the hoard of Gannets and gulls above them but they were even further out than yesterday and there was much more haze so no chance of spotting anything mammalian. We did see a Grey Seal much closer too shore though. It was while we were watching the seal we saw a distant bird fight commotion above it, a pale phase Arctic Skua was giving some gulls a fair bit of grief over the river channel - good to see them back!
Five Dunlin whipped past just behind the surf and in the far distance we saw several small flocks of Common Scoters numbering no more than 100 altogether.  
By lunchtime the wind had picked up a bit and continued to make looking for any cetaceans hard work in the choppy conditions. We were ably assisted by a couple of volunteers who refound the Grey Seal and were able to show it to a passing family. The fish shoals were now right on the very hazy horizon, so far out we could only tell which dots were Gannets by their plunge-dives. There was something going on out there as every so often the flock would move quickly to another spot and a whole heap of Gamnets would dive together, something was forcing whatever species of fish they were taking nearer to the surface and into range.
We found a second Grey Seal this one much further out than the first gave but with little happening after a good hour and a bit we had to leave and return to our desk.
Back at Base Camp we saw we'd missed a message from our Extreme Photographer down in South West Wales. He'd been out on his work travels and come across these little monkeys living the high life on some plumbing pipes.
Where to next? More sea staring tomorrow, it's still going to be windy which means choppy though. The forecast for Friday and the weekend looks a bit more promising...but it can all change in an instant here!
In the meantime let us know who's sitting pretty on the pipes in your outback

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Sandwiches on the beach

The Safari was able to get a good look at Patch 2 this morning. The tide was just on the ebb and there wasn't much happening until we found a distant shoal of fish with a rake load of Gannets and gulls in attendance. The action was too far out and the sea too choppy to be able to tell if there was any blubber beneath them.
In the office we had a shuffy round the interweb to see if we could make any sense of yesterday's mystery swimmer. After a few abortive dead ends we had a stroke of luck and came across the very thing on a website we use quite often, iSpot. Turns out is was almost definitely an Idotea linearis...and the local area has some history of the species, there being a tetrad noted up beyond Chat Alley as well as across the bay on the NBN map. Mystery solved then, life's good!
At lunchtime we had a full hour watching the sea for National Whale and Dolphin Watch. Crikey the wind was cold! Not only cold it was strong too, a fair bit stronger than earlier. 
The first thing we noted was there were lots of Common Terns fishing close in and among them there were a few juvenile Sandwich Terns, the first we've seen this year. A look at the beach to the south revealed more down there roosting up conserving their strength rather than battling with the wind.
Looking out to sea it didn't take us long to find the fish, or at least their associated flock of birds. There were now two large shoals, was it two or was it just one massive one that had (been?) split into two parts?
There were probably over 100 Gannets and shed loads of gulls. Several Manx Shearwaters drifted past closer in too, always good to see them.
We had a pathetic effort at digi-scoping the flock but really it was far too far away.
We reckon there's at least 50 birds in the pic, we missed the central densest part of the flock - dohh!
As with earlier the range was too far and the sea was too choppy to detect any blubber.
All too soon the hour was up and back inside we had to go.
Where to next? We've got another hour out looking at Patch 2 tomorrow - will the weather be more condusive to blubber spotting?
In the meantime let us know where the sandwiches are in your outback.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Its all happening under the pier

The Safari spotted a most welcome returnee on the drive up the hill, the Peregrine was back on the tower after an absence of several months.
Our planned whale and dolphin watched was totally scuppered by the weather, visibility in the totally dreek conditions was only a few hundred yards. But after that we had an event for young children and their parents on the beach up by the pier. While we waited for them to arrive the weather started to clear a bit. They arrived in dribs and drabs and as we waited for the last few to arrive we chatted to the others and it wasn't long before the subject of killer gulls came up. There were some concerned parents of not much more than toddlers in the group - they've really believed the Daily Fail's rubbish - and here we were stood around with at least 50 of the ravening feathered monsters hanging around.
We told them about the different species found on our beach - more than the whole of Australia - and how the lessening amount of brown showed how they aged. We pointed out the Black Headed Gulls brown heads and looked at the silvery mantle of the Herring Gulls but then noticed one of them wasn;t quite 'right', far too dark but not a Lesser Black Back Gull either. It was (possibly) the long staying Yellow Legged Gull that's been hanging round here for a few years.
Once on the beach and now not worried about any species of gull no matter which they started their beachcombing. Being little ones we'd told them not to touch any jellyfish, it wasn't long before the shout of "jellyfish" went up for along the beach. Oh my it was a real whopper! A Lion's Mane Jellyfish nearly a metre across the widest visible tentacles. 
The beach wasn't over-exciting so they wandered down under the piers where there are pools of water around the legs. Minutes later the firsts small Green Shore Crabs and Brown Shrimps were in the pots. What we hadn't realised was there were quite a lot of Sabellaria 'reefs' amongst the piles.
This wasn't the best find of the day though. One of the little ones caught something quite unusual, some kind of Isopod the like of which we've never seen before. It was very thin about a centimetre long with a pair of long antennae almost as long as the body. Wish we could have been able to get a pic. We have our marine biologist friend DB on the case, wonder what she'll be able to tell us tomorrow.
All good stuff!
Where to next? More sea staring - weather permitting
In the meantime let us know what's amongst the piles in your outback.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Wel that wasn't quite what we expected

The Safari was out again for National Whale and Dolphin Watch, this time at the cliffs at Chat Alley on the dropping tide. We were relieved to find the sea was calmer than yesterday and the forecast strong westerly wind hadn't materialised but instead a stiffish offshore wind was blowing and the driving rain hadn't started yet.
It looked pretty good out there, barely a white horse, good visibility and no shadows from the overcast sky.
It didn't take long to pick up a few small flocks of Common Scoters and then about 10 young Gannets working their way south.
Behind us the punters went by on their Sunday morning wanders, it was amusing to listen to their chat which invariably meant they'd just read our sign out loud...good to know almost everyone who came by could read even if they were a little incredulous that there might actually be some of those whales and dolphins out there - and the seemingly ubiquitous 'killer' seagulls, the Daily Fail and the like have a lot to answer for...maybe it would be better if the masses didn't read them
One chap told us had actually seen Bottlenosed Dolphins last week but when we quizzed him further it seems they were the last ones seen that we saw at the start of the month. He was chufferd though, lived here all his life and that was the first time he'd ever seen - or even heard of - any.
Some of the younger children looked out to see and saw all sorts of good things, whale blows (our Minke Whales don't do that) and lots of leaping dolphins - isn't imagination, or excellent eyesight, great!
We had some volunteers turn up just after we'd found a huge shoal of fish away to our left, just offshore from Patch 2 where we were yesterday...isn't that always the case. There were hundreds of gulls in attendance and a good number of Gannets diving, that was were the Gannets we'd seen earlier were headed. Unfortunately the action was too far away to tell if anything mammalian was there too.
The shoal moved slowly northwards towards us as the tide ebbed so it looked like we might be in with a shout of some blubber. Up to now we'd not even seen a Grey Seal which we would have expected in the reasonable sea conditions.
Then the weather started to close in. The distant low cloud was no longer distant and we felt light spots of rain.
On the beach a couple walked along the sands left by the tide and then stopped, the middle-aged bloke stripped off revealing long swimming shorts and very bravely entered the water for a swim and became the only blubber we'd see.
The weather closed further and we decided to abandon ship at half time once the feeding frenzy was lost in the cloud and wasn't going to work its way nearer any time soon. 
Four Eiders flew past and we found a couple of very close-in female Common Scoters but that was the lot - back to Base camp we went soaking wet.
Where to next? We'll be back out looking at the sea on Patch 2 tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know if there was some weather today in your outback

Saturday, 25 July 2015

The gulls are coming - run for your lives!

The Safari was out on Patch 2 for the first day of National Whale and Dolphin Watch. We had plenty of volunteers today, including a young lass who'd traveled by train from Derby! and DB chair of the Lancashire Mammal Group among their number, but the wind had whipped up a bit after yesterday's calm and it was a tad to choppy for seeing any cetaceans. 
We did find a Grey Seal quite close in early on and managed to get a few of the passing punters on to it. Then another turned up a short way to the south of our watch point.
There wasn't too much else to get excited about, there were hardly any sea birds out there and not so many on the beach either - must have all been in town ripping terriers to shreds and carrying off babies. Three juvenile Kittiwakes and a juvenile Gannet were pick if the bunch. 
We'll be out again tomorrow morning but sadly the weather forecast is looking very promising at all.
Once back at Base Camp we had to venture outside to hang some laundry and saw that these two very scary looking reprobates were lurking furtively on the roof looking down on us licking their beaks in anticipation of a meal of warm, fresh and dripping human flesh.

Wisely we covered our head in a thick towel while we hung the rest of laundry on the line.
Not long after Wifey had to go to her sister's on an errand - we had to make sure the coast was clear - it wasn't the 'sea'gulls had set up sentries on the look out for victims on several nearby roofs.
She made a dash for it from the front door all of 10 paces to her car using the garden shrubbery as cover - Oh no! She was swooped in for the kill it's menacing eye locked onto the top of poor Wifey's head.
Thankfully she reached the car flung open the door and dived inside before it could strike.
It's getting seriously dangerous out there - Help us Mr Ca-moron pleeeeaseeee before we all DIEEEE
Really though all this biophobic ecocidal nonsense has to stop, is it part of the complete disconnect with the natural world that has been called Nature Deficit Disorder
We learned this arvo that some half-wits had killed five large mature trees by drilling large holes in them and packing them with poison - what is the world coming to?
The Safari implores anyone with any knowledge of natural history to get busy and promote it as a wonderful thing to everyone else especially those that don't want to know - there are none so blind as those who won't see, keep plugging away sharing those wondrous moments and fuzzy out of focus pics without being too evangelical. A local community inter-web forum here has a huge long thread about the 'need' to get rid of 'sea'gulls, why you ask...the over-riding consensus is they make  a noise early in the morning and sh*t on peoples' cars. They've even written to their MP (Tory) demanding action...this is a seaside town what do they expect? If they don't like gulls they should move to Coventry or some other such well inland place! Roof nesting has been going on for years here so why they haven't got used to it by now is beyond us. We suspect it's because the attitude of 'normal' people is to be far more intolerant of wildlife than in the past especially brought about by a government and (pocket) media demonising just about everything that moves and those same general Jo Publics just keep on lapping it up along with all the other cr*p the corporate moguls shovel at them.
Where to next? We'll be back on the coast but you can bet your bottom dollar we'll be keeping a watchful eye out for those pesky seagulls.
In the meantime let us know who's been carrying away all the babies in your outback.